The main priority of the Ed-tech firm – CoLearn going forward will be its live online classes
Indonesian Ed-tech start-up CoLearn, which started as a chain of physical tutoring centres and was in the process of shifting to a hybrid offline-online model when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, has raised $10 million in Series-A funding co-led by Alpha Wave Incubation and Ed-tech-focused GSV Ventures. This is the first time that both Alpha Wave Incubation and GSV Ventures have made an investment in Indonesia. Also, the round included participation from returning investors Sequoia Capital India’s Surge and AC Ventures.
The Ed-tech firm’s team decided to focus completely on its app that launched in August 2020, as the team sensed that remote learning would permanently change how students want to be tutored. Since then CoLearn has been downloaded more than 3.5 million times and has about one million active users, mostly students in grades seven to 12.
To improve educational standards in Indonesia is the goal of the Jakarta-based Ed-tech firm. The country’s PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment, a global ranking system created by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) rankings are in the bottom 10 per cent for math, science and reading. The firm’s goal is to help move up Indonesia’s PISA ratings to the top 50% over the next five years.
CoLearn’s app offers more than 250,000 pre-recorded videos with homework help. The videos serve as a hook to convince students (or their parents) to sign up for CoLearn’s live online classes.
The Ed-tech start-up’s co-founders are Abhay Saboo, Marc Irawan and BYJU product team alum Sandeep Devaram. Indonesia has not seen the same level of investment and innovation in its educational infrastructure as countries like China or India, Saboo told TechCrunch, despite being the world’s fourth most populous country with 270 million people. “We’re trying to solve the problem of how do you change mind sets, how do you change motivation, how do you increase in confidence levels?”
In 2018, before shifting to a hybrid model, the Ed-tech firm started its offline business. The company decided to go fully online after the hit of the pandemic. The team anticipates that most students will prefer the convenience of online afterschool learning, even after schools reopen because going to brick-and-mortar tutoring centres can eat up hours of their time each day, said Saboo.
Each month, the Ed-tech start-up’s users ask about five million questions through the app. Its AI platform matches them with video tutorials, recorded by more than 400 tutors that break down key concepts. Saboo said creating engaging videos instead of presenting solutions in a diagram is one of the ways the Ed-tech firm differentiates from competitors like SnapAsk, which raised $35 million last year to expand in Southeast Asia.
“What we realized is that kids are really craving a step-by-step explanation and this is the TikTok generation, so if a picture says a thousand words, then a video says a million,” he said, adding, when students think they have the answer to a question, they often hit pause on the video, before skipping to the end to see if they got it right, which indicates they want to understand concepts instead of simply getting a solution.
The main priority of the Ed-tech firm going forward will be its live online classes and the start-up hopes to replicate the success of companies like China’s Yuanfadao and Zuoyebang. Also, the firm runs teacher training programs as a part of the goal and expects to train more than 200 teachers over the next two years, especially in STEM subjects. The company may eventually scale into other countries that have similar issues with their education systems, but Saboo said the Ed-tech firm’s plan is to focus on Indonesia for at last the next couple of years.
Other investors in CoLearn include Leo Capital, TNB Aura, S7V, January Capital, Alpha JWC, Taurus Ventures, Alter Global and Mahanusa Capital.
In press statement, GSV Ventures managing partner Deborah Quazzo said, “The opportunity to build efficacious learning solutions for the fourth largest country in the world is vast. The greatest businesses are created when entrepreneurs tackle large, important problems and CoLearn is doing that”.